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SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho, Senshuraku [The Final Day] (Day 15)

Well, those fifteen days went really quickly! It’s senshuraku [the final day] of the 2017 Kyushu Basho! With his explosive win over M9 Endo and the losses of both M4 Hokutofuji and M12 Okinoumi, yokozuna Hakuho has secured the yusho [tournament championship]—the 4oth of his illustrious career. He still has to fight ozeki Goeido today, but it’s really just to decide whether he’ll win with a 14–1 or a 13–2 record . . . and whether Goeido can reach double-digit victories.

Hakuho began the tournament having publicly predicted a zensho-yusho [perfect record championship], and he very nearly pulled it off. If not to for that mental error of thinking there was a matta [re-do] in his match against sekiwake Yoshikaze, he’d be fighting for that perfect record today, and probably getting it. The thing is, he seems so fit and strong, there seems to be no reason he won’t get a good chance at another zensho-yusho in 2018 (he already has thirteen of them, far and away the most by any rikishi ever).

Another accolade that Hakuho’s win yesterday secured for him was title of Most Wins in 2017. Despite the fact that he was kyujo [absent due to injury] for 25 matches during the year, he managed to rack up 55 wins out of the remaining 65 matches (with there still being the likelihood that he’ll increase that number to 56 today). His closest competitors this year were sekiwake Mitakeumi and M1 Takakeisho (two of the young phenoms who have risen through the ranks this year) who each currently have 53 wins, with one match remaining to fight. 

Speaking of Mitakeumi, he secured his kachi-koshi [majority of wins] yesterday. This means that he’ll remain a sekiwake to begin 2018. It also means that he was kachi-koshi in EVERY basho of 2017, something you don’t normally see from such a young rikishi, particularly given that he spent the whole year near the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet]. (In fact, thanks to all the injury withdrawals, this year Mitakeumi is the ONLY rikishi in the Makuuchi Division to be kachi-koshi in all six of the hon-basho in 2017.) He was M1 in January, and in sanyaku for the rest of the year, which means that he fought pretty much exactly the same mix of opponents that the yokozuna and ozeki did, and he managed to win at least eight matches in EVERY tournament. I think it’s pretty clear that if he can remain injury-free, he’ll be the next rikishi to make a serious run at promotion to ozeki (particularly if the current scandals cause one or more of the yokozuna to retire).

Another eventual ozeki, komusubi Onosho, has struggled hard to overcome his difficult Week 1 schedule (typical for a komusubi) and get his fourth kachi-koshi in a row. He was 1–6 at the end of Week 1, and has 6–1 since nakabi [the middle day]. If he can win today against M5 Takarafuji, he’ll get his eighth win and really prove something about his character.

I’ll try to put together a basho and year-end wrap-up post sometime in the coming week. But until then, let’s have a look at today’s top matches. As I usually do on senshuraku, I’ll list all of the matches that involve rikishi whose records are 7–7 and will have their fates decided today. There are fewer of these than usual, and the Kyokai [Sumo Association] has decided in two cases to pit a pair of 7–7 rikishi against each other, just to ratchet up the tension.

So you know, the term “densha michi” literally means “going by train,” and it is used in sumo to describe a bout where one rikishi charges in hard at the tachi-ai and blows his opponent backwards (and usually off the dohyo). “Hit like a train” would be a good translation.

M6 Chiyoshoma (7–7) vs. M13 Aminishiki (7–7)—Two rikishi who are on the verge between kachi- and make-koshi. Aminishiki is who I’m rooting for. The 39-year-old rikishi has only just returned to the Makuuchi Division and it’s clear what a struggle he’ll have to stay here. Still, he spent the first half of the week showing us that sometimes it pays to bet on experience over youth and power. If Aminishiki wins, he’ll not only get his kachi-koshi, he’ll also be awarded a kanto-sho (fighting spirit special prize). (4:10)
M4 Chiyonokuni (5–9) vs. M13 Takekaze (7–7)—Takekaze is the second-oldest rikishi in the upper division at 38 years old. Like Aminishiki, he’s having a harder time in recent tournaments simply keeping up with the younger rikishi, and it’s good to see him here with a fighting chance to secure a majority of wins. I’m definitely rooting for him. (5:45)
M12 Okinoumi (11–3) vs. M1 Takakeisho (9–5)—After facing M1 Tamawashi yesterday, Okinoumi must face the other M1 today. He’s had a great tournament and regardless of what happens today will be awarded a kanto-sho (fighting spirit special prize) for his effort. Takakeisho continues to show that he’s one of the top young rikishi, and would dearly like to move his record into double-digit wins. Regardless of the outcome, though, he will be awarded a shukun-sho (outstanding performance special prize). (8:35)
M1 Tamawashi (10–4) vs. M4 Hokutofuji (11–3)—Tamawashi finishes off his tournament by facing both of the second-place rikishi—Okinoumi yesterday and Hokutofuji today. Particularly today, he wants to prove his superiority because he and Hokutofuji will be competing for the same promotions as the first banzuke of 2o18 is drawn up. For his part, Hokutofuji will be awarded a gino-sho (technique special prize) due to his incredible performance over the past fortnight. (9:05)
M5 Takarafuji (7–7) vs. komusubi Onosho (7–7)—Another match where two 7–7 rikishi are forced to go head-to-head. Onosho still has never had a make-koshi in the Makuuchi Division (this being only his fourth tournament in the upper division), and he’d for sure like to be promoted to sekiwake in January if possible. (9:40)
Ozeki Goeido (9–5) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (13–1)—The final match of the day has nothing in particular riding on it. Hakuho has secured his 40th yusho, and Goeido has managed to squeak into a kachi-koshi. But, pride being what it is among the top rankers, I expect that this will be a hard-fought match. I also expect that Hakuho will come out the winner without very much trouble. (13:35)

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